Chronic diseases are the leading causes of death and disability in the United States. This is information straight from those in the know: the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And by talking about chronic diseases, we are talking about such notables as diabetes, cancer and heart disease.
The prevention of chronic disease may well be the most realistic and effective way to control the ever-expanding cost of health care (with the added perk of improving our own lives along the way). I believe that the acceptance and adoption of a healthier lifestyle, at both an individual as well as a global level, is the missing link in our national healthcare crisis.
I believe that each of us has the power to stop, and even reverse, the upwardly moving national trends of obesity and related chronic disease(s). I believe that it is well within our power to do this for ourselves but I also believe that our government can do more to help, particularly for those who lack the resources to fully engage on their own.
Our current system is one that is based on fixing what's broken, rather than preventing the damage in the first place. This is completely backwards. Doesn't it make much more sense to use that proverbial "ounce of prevention" to save yourself the trouble (and expense) of the "pound of cure?"
While chronic diseases are among the most common and expensive health issues we as a nation face, the good news is that many of these conditions are also among the most preventable. Adopting healthy behaviors such as eating more nutritious foods while minimizing the junk, being more physically active, not smoking, etc. is definitely the place to start.
We are in quite the predicament: As rates of obesity and chronic disease skyrocket, our medical system is in full decay. Not a good combo, no sir. I would like to know what our political candidates intend to do, in real time and in a realistic manner, to assist in reversing this multifactorial breakdown.
What the government should be thinking about is helping out on both ends of the spectrum: engaging the medical community to enliven this mission and empowering the American people to take individual and community action.
Some of the issues at hand that the government can (and should) have a role in include:
The cost of healthy foods
It is often much, much more expensive to eat fresh (particularly organic) vegetables and fruit, lean cuts of meat and fish than it is to grab highly processed and nutritionally inadequate choices.
The accessibility and availability of healthy foods
In addition to the direct cost of food, there is the time cost as well. Everyone wants to save a little time. Convenience is at a premium.
It seems so much easier and more convenient to grab take-out from the corner fast food restaurant (on every corner) than to spend more time preparing a whole food meal or seeking out a healthy dining out alternative.
Our government has the responsibility to ensure that a food supply is available but also that it is optimal. This has fallen by the wayside as it is easier to produce food in greater quantities with the help of chemicals and additives that ultimately make their way into the food we eat. The quality of our foods and we, the consumers, suffer from this process.
Participation of schools
Some schools don't even have physical education anymore. And forget healthy, well-balanced lunches. This is unacceptable, period.
On a positive note, many schools have been turning attention to reducing the amount of sodas and other sugary snacks available to our children during school hours. Not nearly enough is being done, however, and our taxes (or tuitions) paid entitle us to better choices and guidance for our children.
Government sponsored wellness plans
How great would it be if there were incentives for working out, quitting smoking or losing weight according to physician recommendations? How about a tax break for healthy living?
Incentive plans have shown time and again that incentives are very effective in getting people to change behaviors. A little incentivizing from our government to join the gym, drop the excess pounds, crush out the smokes (for good) might make a world of difference.
As a last note, while I do believe that our government has a responsibility in the politics of prevention, the ultimate responsibility falls on each of us individually. No matter what your current state of health is, you have the power to choose the direction your health takes in the future.
Published On: January 07, 2008